16th December 2015.
NXT has come a long way since it replaced WWE’s other feeder league Florida Championship Wrestling. It’s become a beloved brand and it’s own entity. Now complete with tours and a global fanbase, weaned on NXT by WWE’s own Network. The time has come when NXT can tour the UK and make a success of it, including a Network special airing live. The future is now!
Triple H opens the show, having sold injuries to miss RAW but this is his project so he’s in the UK babyfacing it up as NXT honcho. It’s literally the first time I’ve liked him since 2002. “Live in prime time in the UK” reminds Corey Graves. It’s nice to actually have a Network show airing at a sensible hour. It shows the company is beginning to realise its global potential. If business is down in the USA, give that business to other areas of the world.
Asuka vs. Emma
Hunter flew Dana Brooke over. NXT is flush with tour cash. The crowd immediately launch into a chant of “Asuka’s gonna kill you”. This is the biggest problem with having Asuka is the level of expectation. Everyone expects her to kill all the other ladies. This is followed by a loud chant of “fuck her up, Asuka, fuck her up”. Asuka’s technical skill is so much fun. It looks like Emma could lose an arm just getting taken over. Asuka gets so bored with destroying Emma that she uses her anus on one attack. It’s a virtual flying stinkface. Emma gets a heat segment that sometimes feels like filler but sometimes feels like a legitimate threat. Something Dana never brought to the dance. Emma is an ok wrestler but Asuka just kills her with the strikes. The spinning backfist is pure evil. Emma has a few surprises like the Tarantula and Asuka starts to show a few weaknesses, making the match feel more legitimate. We get some shenanigans involving a ref bump and Dana with Emma tapping out to the Asukalock. Emma tries for a plunder shot but gets spin kicked in the face for the Asuka win. This was an absolute belter with a red hot crowd. Great way to open the night’s grappling. This show is going to be awesome.
Final Rating: ***1/2
NXT Tag Team Championship
Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady
The challengers have the best sing-a-long entrance since the New Age Outlaws. They are enormously over in London, as they will be absolutely everywhere. This routine can easily transition over onto the main card with no tweaking whatsoever. I can only presume WWE aren’t that hot on the Jersey Trio (Carmella included) as workers. Enzo’s haircut is ridiculous and he’s halfway between Shinsuke Nakamura and a manga character in a post apocalyptic world. I cannot take my eyes off him. He’s also massively over. Big Cass gets the Hey Jude treatment and the crowd is leaving the announcers speechless. Apart from Corey Graves, who’s a man of the world. Dash & Dawson have been capable tag team champions but they’ve got no sizzle whatsoever. I get comparisons to the Brain Busters but those guys were also phenomenal workers. The comparison is ridiculous as Enzo & Big Cass are a truly modern tag team, as shown by Cass launching Enzo over the top in a huge spot. The challengers are eager to prove themselves the most entertaining team in the division. Dash & Dawson pick off Enzo’s arm and cut off the ring. It’s old school tag team work near perfectly executed. Big Cass gets a red hot tag but the champs wipe out the bad knee, made bad by themselves to set this match up. The Rocket Launcher has it won only for Dawson to pull the ref out of the ring. Enzo ends up pinned and sadly the fan-favourite duo of Enzo & Big Cass, despite being the biggest babyfaces in the company (being swiftly caught up by Jordan & Gable) lose again. There’s a danger of them becoming somewhat of a joke. Dash & Dawson looked seriously great at times.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews
This is a big old slobberknocker with two big guys smacking each other around. The crowd opt to rain shit upon Baron Corbin but he has improved quite a lot recently. To the point where he wouldn’t look out of place on the main roster. This crowd is so adult orientated it creates an amazing atmosphere, not normally associated with WWE. You can hear them chanting “fuck you, Corbin”. This is not the Full Sail audience. I must admit my mind drifts badly during this match as the two men clubber away at each other and Corbin inserts a few rest holds. Baron’s best work comes from his verbal abuse. At one point he yells “go back to Ring of Honor” to a floored Apollo. It’s terrific banter from the Baron but unfortunately the closest Apollo, or Uhaa as he was known back then, came to working ROH was working UK Supershows in Preston under the ROH banner. I guess “go back to Dragon Gate” wouldn’t connect with so many audience members. Apollo has a few sensational counters including flipping out of End of Days. Baron floors him with it out of nowhere a minute down the line though. In a way I’m glad they stopped Crews being unbeaten because there are only so many places you can go with that and Baron has improved enough to deserve that big Network Special win. Match was only sporadically good though, despite Corbin getting better, and Crews had the best moments.
Final Rating: **
Video Control takes us to a Nia Jax interview and Asuka appears in the shadows, ready to kick off. “You looking at something?” asks Nia. I want that match! Asuka is the only person on the NXT roster capable of dethroning Bayley so it’s for the best to have her distracted by another potential star in Nia.
NXT Womens Championship
Bayley (c) vs. Nia Jax
Bayley has had a great run already as women’s champion, beating most girls with pluck and good grappling. Of course, Nia isn’t like most girls. Even her theme song says so. Bayley’s pop is so loud you can hear the technical guys having to turn it down. As the fans sing “heeeeey Bayley, ooh-ah, I wanna know if you’ll be my girl” the smile on Bayley’s face is amazing. This is joyous wrestling. Nia might have a lot of size and power but she’s not very far along as a worker. She doesn’t hit stuff when it makes sense. As if she has a pre-planned routine of where she wants to hit stuff and does it regardless. Nia dominates with power and Bayley has to get creative with her work, grabbing Princess Bride sleepers (dragon style) and hitting dropkicks and even rope moves as Bayley moves out of her comfort zone. Nia hits some butt ugly legdrops, which is an awful finish for her, and Bayley kicks out. Nia’s power moveset is generally quite good but I don’t dig the legdrop as a finish for her. Especially the way she lands it, which is over safe. She also has no idea how to read the crowd, to the point of incredible frustration. The crowd noise is in the middle of building when she cuts off Bayley’s comebacks. Wait for the crescendo. Bayley keeps catching her in chokes until she eventually gets the submission. Nia looked completely out of her depth here but Bayley did an awesome job of carrying the contest.
Final Rating: ***
Finn Balor (c) vs. Samoa Joe
Finn decides to come out here dressed as Jack the Ripper. His entrance is met perfectly by the crowd, who have been on their game all night long. Rich Brennan mentions Balor’s “Dark Passenger”. Has he been watching Dexter? The contest sees Balor showing a lot of pluck but running headlong into Joe’s power moves. Joe is just too big, too fast and too vicious. Finn looks in trouble from the opening minute or so. The crowd goes pro-Balor, based on his locality and his babyface nature although there are widespread “Joe’s gonna kill you” chants going on. Joe is in a mood to steal the show, something we’ve not really seen from him since his NXT debut. He’s been comfortable with just ‘being here’. Not so tonight. It’s a vintage performance from Joe, chaining submissions and owning Balor on the mat and with strikes. Finn brings a tonne of babyface resolve with desperate kicks and dives. Joe makes a tremendous point by just swatting aside a dropkick though. He’s so great when it comes to ignoring offence and just shrugging it off. The strike duels are terrific especially with Joe just catching the Pele Kick after having seen it already, earlier in the match. Also blocking a kick after having seen it twice already. Joe powering up out of the corner is great. It makes him look like an absolute monster. Joe teases a massive Super Muscle Buster but Finn shoves him off and finishes with the Coup De Grace in a surprising finale. Very, very strong match. Lots of hard hitting and fun stuff. I’m actually a little sad that Joe didn’t win because it felt like a logical switch but Balor is anxious to hang around in NXT so I guess he’s their guy for now. With all the main roster injuries Joe may be called upon soon.
Final Rating: ****
Summary: I was totally into this show almost throughout. Only the Corbin-Crews match slowed me down. It’s getting to the point where I just expect a great event from NXT. Almost everything they do hits. It’s almost like a misfire is overdue at this point. This show was consistent rather than amazing but the crowd made it special. Big thumbs up, as always.